A STORY ABOUT A REAL MAN 165 moment of despair after his operation, when he felt the need of expressing his grief to somebody, he wrote her a long and gloomy letter. Shortly afterwards, he received an answer written on a page torn from an exercise book, in a twiddly hand, the sentences liberally interspersed with exclamation marks that looked like caraway-seeds sprinkled on a bun, and the whole ornamented with tear blots. The girl wrote that if it were not for military dis- cipline, she would throw up everything at once and go to him to nurse him and share his sorrow. She implored him to write more often. There was so much naive, half- childish sentiment in this confused letter that it made Alexei sad, and he cursed himself for having told the girl when she handed him Olya's letters that Olya was his married sister. A girl like that ought never to be de- ceived. And so he frankly wrote and told her that he had a sweetheart in Kamyshin, and that he had not dared to tell her, or his own mother, the truth about his misfortune. The answer from the "meteorological sergeant" came with what was, in those days, an incredible speed. The girl wrote that she was sending the letter with a major, a war correspondent who had visited their wing. He had courted her, but, of course, she had ignored him, although he was a nice, jolly fellow. From the tone of the letter it was evident that she was disappointed and offended, had tried to restrain her feelings but without avail. Chid- ing him for not having told her the truth that time, she asked him to regard her as his friend. This letter ended with a postscript written not in ink, but in pencil, as- suring the "Comrade Senior Lieutenant" that she was his devoted friend and telling him that if "that one in Ka- myshin" were unfaithful to him (she knew how the wo- men in the rear were behaving), or if she ceased to love him, or was repelled by his being disabled, then let him not forget the "meteorological sergeant", only he must always write her nothing but the truth. The person who brought the letter also brought a neatly-packed parcel containing several embroidered handkerchiefs made from parachute silk and bearing Alexei's initials, a tobacco- pouch with a plane depicted on it, a comb, a bottle of "Magnolia" eau-de-Cologne, and a piece of toilet soap.